GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Michael Iaconelli has held the lead twice before in Bassmaster tournaments on Lake Guntersville. But both times, Iaconelli failed to collect a win.
He doesn't plan on letting that happen again.
Iaconelli leads the CITGO Bassmaster Southern Challenge presented by Berkley with a three-day total of 56 pounds, 10 ounces. The New Jersey pro said he's using his past performances here in northern Alabama as motivation to perform better on Sunday during the fourth stop of the Elite Series.
"Both times when I led here before, I faltered," Iaconelli said. "The fish kind of left me. One of the big things I learned is not to be stubborn. That's what I'm telling myself today. I committed to those fish in the past tournaments and said, 'I'm going to live or die by those fish.' I'm not going to do that today."
Iaconelli has said throughout the Southern Challenge that versatility would be a key factor in determining who wins this event and he's fished a variety of techniques so far. He sightfished on Thursday to open the tournament and used spinners offshore on Friday and Saturday.
With sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 80s expected Sunday, Iaconelli said he'll probably use a combination of the two styles today.
He said he'll begin fishing offshore with Carolina-rigged diving crank baits when the light is minimal. When the sun gets overhead, he anticipates moving closer to shore and using Texas-rigged Berkley baits for shallow-water bass.
"I feel a bit different in this top 12 than others," Iaconelli said. "I'm all business today. Usually when I make the top 12, it's great and you're happy to do it. But I'm all focused. I want to go out and fish the hardest I can. I always believe it's meant to be you're going to win a tournament. So that's kind of the attitude I have."
Eleven anglers are chasing Iaconelli for the tournament title and the $100,000 first prize. Alton Jones, who led the first two days of the Southern Challenge, is in second place with a 54-10 total. Takahiro Omori is in third place with 53-10 and Kevin VanDam is fourth with 52-5. Steve Kennedy (51-15) and Jeff Reynolds (51-13) round out the top six.
Dean Rojas (51-0), Gerald Swindle (50-6), Yusuke Miyazaki (50-6), Edwin Evers (50-5) Timmy Horton (50-0) and Mark Tucker (49-13) make up the bottom half of the elite 12 field.
Jones said if he's to catch Iaconelli, he needs to catch more than 20 pounds of bass on Sunday.
"I'm really looking forward to today," Jones said. "Last night, I was laying in bed slow-rolling that spinner bait. I'm so excited, I wanted to go night fishing. I couldn't wait. I feel like they're going to bite this morning. The weather stabilized. I just have that good feeling."
Jones plans to fish an offshore ledge he's worked the past three days and continue to target spawning and post-spawn bass. His lures of choice have been Booyah spinners and jigs.
"I'm going to keep dancing with what brung me," he said.
Omori also anticipates big things on Sunday.
"I feel like it's going to be a good day," he said. "This is a good lake. It's going to be sunny, not much wind this morning. I have one deep grass spot to start with. Hopefully, I'm going to get a few good fish there this morning."
VanDam is just more than four pounds out of the lead. Like Jones, VanDam said it will take 20 pounds or more to catch Iaconelli.
"The first couple of hours are going to be critical for me," VanDam said. "I've got two patterns that have been working. That's all I'm going to run. I feel good about it."